MAC: Mines and Communities

States Pursue Allegheny Coal Plant Case Abandoned by EPA

Published by MAC on 2004-05-21

States Pursue Allegheny Coal Plant Case Abandoned by EPA

Environmental News Service (ENS)

May 21, 2004

Albany, New York - New York and three other states will sue the owner of five coal fired power plants in West Virginia for violating the Clean Air Act over more than a decade, after the federal government dropped its investigation of the power plants late last year.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced Thursday that Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have joined New York in sending a Notice of Intent to Sue letter to Allegheny Energy, Inc. based in Greensburgh, Pennsylvania.

Allegheny Energy Inc. is the fifth largest emitter of sulfur dioxide and the tenth largest emitter of nitrogen oxide in the nation.

The notice identifies Clean Air Act violations at five power plants in West Virginia owned and operated by the company. It serves as notice of the violations upon which a lawsuit under the Clean Air Act might be based if a resolution of the matter is not reached.

An investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that the Allegheny coal plants made major improvements without installing the air pollution controls required under the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act.

As a result, the plants have continued to emit hundreds of thousands of tons more pollution each year that blow across state lines into the four states pursuing the lawsuit. The sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions cause smog, acid rain, respiratory disease among other problems, the letter states.

After the federal government announced that the EPA was dropping some 50 air pollution enforcement investigations, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer obtained the comprehensive files on these power plants. Thursday's action by the states "ensures that years of investigatory work to advance environmental enforcement will be used to protect public health and the environment," Spitzer's office said in a statement.

Spitzer said, "Air pollution from coal-fired power plants is a serious threat to New York's environment and public health. It is disturbing that the federal government is no longer enforcing the Clean Air Act, and is in fact taking steps to sharply weaken it. New York and its partners will act if the federal government is unwilling to do so."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said, "This company must be held accountable - just as we have done with other polluters - for stopping the steady stream of poison it spews daily into the air we breathe."

"States like Connecticut must act aggressively to stop air contamination because of appalling, astonishing inaction by federal agencies," Blumenthal said. "This issue is a matter of life and death."

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey said, "Faced with federal regulators at the EPA who have abdicated their responsibility to enforce the Clean Air Act, we will join with these other states to ensure that corporate polluters are not permitted to defy the law and profit at the expense of our environment and the health of our citizens."

The letter of notice also identifies unpermitted modifications at three power plants in Pennsylvania, but the states have deferred joint action on those power plants since Pennsylvania has initiated its own investigation and is in discussions with Allegheny Energy regarding those violations.

Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty said, "Although Pennsylvania has acted independently by initiating its own investigation and discussions with Allegheny Energy regarding the three in-state plants, joining this broader suit emphasizes the importance of regional partnerships in achieving air quality improvements and ensuring fairness.

"Pennsylvania and others in the Northeast all too often are put at a competitive disadvantage by shouldering the burden of increased emissions from upwind states," she said.


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